This month Compleat Golfer’s playing editor Brandon Stone talks about the success of taking golf to Soweto.
Perhaps you could call me old-fashioned, but I prefer to believe I’m a traditionalist. I’m never one to advocate change for the sake of it. And I’ve never been one to upset my pre-tournament routine. However, something magical happened at this year’s SA Open.
Instead of playing the pro-am at the Bushwillow and Firethorn courses at Randpark, which was the tournament venue, we were hosted by Soweto Country Club. That isn’t your normal scenario by any stretch of the imagination.
I can’t be anything other than honest. I was quite apprehensive at first. Yes, like so many others, I had heard of good things from Soweto CC but I was still a little skeptical. Well, let me tell you something … what a course! The saying is that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and this one left its mark.
It’s definitely not the longest, or toughest course, but it’s no walk in the park either. Every fairway is guarded by a treeline
on either side, which means it punishes any stray tee shot. The holes also tend to dogleg, giving fairway-play an extra tricky variable.
Then there are the greens. Simply put, they are exceptional! They have to be some of the purest putting surfaces in the country, with flowing slopes all over. This is going to make it easy for tournament organisers to tuck a few pins away in tough positions.
But this course is more than a score, it is a symbol of how golf is evolving in South Africa. With the SAGDB and Golf RSA programmes giving more and more opportunities to the youth, the future of
the game on our shores is being secured, which is fantastic for the sport.
The pro-am was brilliant. It’s always a pleasure rubbing shoulders with some of South Africa’s most prominent businesspeople. One of the standouts of the day was the fact that even the amateurs realised the significance of the occasion. They realised what this day meant, especially for the future of the game
in the country.
However, now I have to throw a brickbat in the direction of some SA professionals.
I was annoyed by the fact that many prominent golfers from this country opted to withdraw from the day instead of teeing up at the pro-am and being part of a historic moment. It gave me the impression that many of them felt it wasn’t worth their time to go to Soweto to play.
It was a perfect opportunity for all of us to give back to the City of Joburg for its constant support of the Sunshine Tour. I really hope those pros who weren’t there will have a serious rethink about their inaction, especially if we head back next year, which I hope we do.
Overall, though, it was a fantastic day out. I highly recommend a trip to Soweto to see how all the hard work and dedication that so many have put in has resulted in a memorable experience, and perhaps a watershed moment in the future of golf in South Africa.
Photo: Warren Little/Getty Images